Mayor Barrett’s streetcar proposal hits education budgets the hardest

A vote for the streetcar is a vote against education in Milwaukee

By Chris Johnson, Editor,

In a City of Milwaukee Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) memorandum dated January 5, 2015, the department listed the financial impact that the two proposed streetcar Tax Incremental Districts (TID) would have on the taxing entities over the life of the proposed TID financing period. Those taxing entities include the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and State Forestry.

The total financing cost to these taxing entities for the proposed streetcar is almost $104 million (click here to see actual document). Of all of the entities involved, MPS is financing the largest share to the tune of almost $40 million, or almost 40%. Couple that with over $7 million coming from MATC to pay for the proposed streetcar and you get a whopping total of $47 million for a streetcar that very few of these children and young adults will ever get the opportunity to use.

In another LRB memo on the same date, it states that $17.5 million of this TID is going to developer Rick Barrett for the Couture project. So, in essence we are taking funds from a struggling education system and a community college to subsidize a privately owned real estate development on the lakefront.

Mayor Barrett is beginning to look a lot like Governor Walker by his willingness to cut education budgets in order to provide subsidies for a small, yet well-connected few. If people care anything about education, children, Black and Brown people, or the entire community of Milwaukee and not just those influential and well-connected few, one would not support this streetcar proposal.

Is this what Barrett had in mind in 2009 when he proposed taking over MPS? Have Milwaukee alderpersons forgotten that they work for their constituents and not the Mayor? Why is there so much opposition in having a binding referendum for this streetcar proposal?

A thoughtful and reasonable alternative proposal to Barrett’s Downtown Streetcar… The 30th Street Corridor:

Joe Davis Editorial: The reasonable alternative to the downtown streetcar

A summary of the alternative proposal is:

  • According to federal mandate those funds, roughly $55 million, are supposed to be used in the area of greatest need for improved transpotation for employment opportunities based on negative employment and high poverty rates. I doubt highly that downtown Milwaukee meets any of these standards.

  • The 30th Street corridor already has a rail line. Thus significantly reducing the cost to build, roughly $100 million is in the budget right now for new tracks. This type of savings could allow a longer rail line. and this plan actually connects to areas of high unemployment and poverty

  • The 30th Street corridor runs from I-94 through the North side and out to the Northwest part of town. This rail line goes through some of the most economically challenged aldermanic districts including 15-Stamper, 7-Wade, 1-Hamilton, and 9-Puente. Why wouldnt these aldermen want the streetcar available for their constituents?

  • The Century City, former Tower Automotive site, already has an existing maintenance facility. In Barretts Downtown streetcar proposal the have $7.5 million for a new maintenance facility. There would be no need for this, thus saving money or expanding the line.

  • Lastly, there are $40 million dollars coming from MPS and the youth of MPS will most likely never use the downtown streetcar. Yet we are taking money from their education to pay for it. This is shameful and immoral.

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Last edited by patricia obletz. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on January 19, 2015

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